Globe Syndicate

 for release Friday March 19, 2004

 Another Way

 by Melodie Davis 

Work or Go Fish?

The advice for job seekers is often too “easy,” contradicting, and not helpful. While my daughter has been looking for a permanent job after college, I have heard statements like, “One can jump too quick; don’t be in too much of a hurry. Make sure it is the right job.”

On the other hand, I have heard, “You can’t find a job until you have a job. Just take anything and something else will come along as you keep looking.” Most of this column will not be news to you if you’re job hunting. This is written more for the understanding of your friends and relatives.

            I was talking to a guy who is currently out of a permanent job, and we were discussing our children’s attempts to find work. He recalled when he was just out of college or maybe it was when he was hunting for a summer job between years of college. He said, “I was so desperate to get a job, any job, just to be productive. I took a piddling job and later my Mom said, “Maybe you should have just gone fishing with Dad.” Alex thought that she was maybe right when his dad died not many years later. Time spent with his father that summer may have been more important than making three dollars an hour flipping burgers.

            Perhaps that sounds contradictory, too, of my usual encouragement to work harder, dig deeper, bear our responsibilities properly.

            Getting a permanent job that you like and want to work at for a while is extremely difficult. There are so many complicating factors that eat up so much time. Sometimes it is difficult or impractical to just accept any job, say in retail or restaurant work, because that affects how you go about looking for work elsewhere. If you are tied down to a 40 hour dead end job that you don’t like it is very tough to be available to apply elsewhere, receive phone calls, have interviews, and so on. If you have someone else helping to support you that makes it easier of course.       

            And while it is easy to say, in taking a quick look through the paper, “There’s work out there for anyone who wants to work,” a closer look reveals requirements regarding experience, aptitude, licenses (drivers, beauticians, medical), etc. You probably aren’t going to get hired or be successful at a marketing or sales job, for instance, if you can’t find it in yourself to be an assertive, positive and plucky sales person. That rules out a whole section of jobs. If you really don’t like working with children, it is certainly unfair to those children and their parents to take a job in childcare.

On the other hand, one can be too picky. Do you accept the first job that comes along, or do you dislike the idea of going through training, orientation, and take up the company’s time and money, only to quit in three weeks for a better job?

But sometimes you do have to take something that is less than your ideal job, just to get your foot in the door, get some experience. Sometimes college graduates have too high of expectations and want a cushy white collar job right away, when they would be better off starting in the mail room. I started my job as a secretary and gradually other opportunities opened up, although the job scene is very different now from 29 years ago. Now it is frequently more difficult to move up the corporate ladder when human resources has to make sure the job opening is equally available to all, and not just a job description written to fill a boss’ need and a worker’s gifts.

            Speaking of the role of friends and relatives, you should definitely sympathize with the person who is looking for work, but don’t make their search your search. You can make referrals, network, suggest contacts etc., but you can’t go out and do their looking for them.

This is particularly hard when it comes to your own children. It is easier to be looking for work yourself than to watch your child look for work because you would probably do it better (at least that is common for parents to think). As a friend or acquaintance, don’t ask them every time you see them if they found a job yet. While they appreciate your concern and interest, it gets really depressing to have to always answer, no, not yet. That can make someone just feel like staying in bed and not getting out. You should assume that they will definitely tell you when they’ve found a job, so in this case, no news is bad news.

But hang in there. If you knock on enough doors, on a weekly basis, something will eventually open up. It is exhausting, difficult and takes a lot of perseverance. Perhaps you need more specialized training than what you received in high school or college. If so, going to a training school for business or medical training makes a whole lot of sense, especially if they promise to place you in a job when you graduate.


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Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three daughters.


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